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Take oath in Nepali, government tells vice president

world Updated: Aug 17, 2009 14:00 IST
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The Nepal government has asked its Vice President Paramananda Jha to take his oath of office once again in Nepali. Jha had taken the oath in Hindi.

But, ahead of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal's maiden visit to India, the government also promised to amend the constitution to make future oaths in Hindi possible.

The year-long battle over the use of Hindi for official work, that has once again divided Nepal's Madhesi community living along the Indian border from the rest of the nation, received the coup de grace Monday when the council of ministers decided Jha would be told to honour the verdict of the Supreme Court.

The apex court had last month scrapped Jha's oath-taking as unconstitutional because it was taken in Hindi and ordered a fresh swearing-in in Nepali.

"The cabinet has decided to ask the vice president to honour the decision of the court," Minister for Law and Justice Prem Bahadur Singh said after the cabinet meeting. "However, the cabinet has also decided that the constitution would be amended to enable people in future to take the oath of office in their mother tongues."

The placatory promise does not prevent Jha from losing face.

Nepal's first vice president, who had declared he would rather resign than take the oath again under duress in Nepali, will now have to undergo the ceremony again or quit or be sacked.

The storm erupted last year after Jha, a former judge himself, chose to take the oath of office in Hindi. He also chose to wear the dhoti and kurta favoured by the Terai people instead of Nepal's national dress, the daura suruwal, consisting of tight trousers and a long shirt.

Hindi, though understood by a large number of Nepalis, is still eschewed by them for official purpose since it is regarded essentially as an Indian language. A public opinion poll taken after the vice president row showed over 80 percent of the respondents blaming him.

Asked if he would quit or take the oath again, Jha had said he would leave it to the people to decide.